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INTO Colorado State brings English conversations to international classrooms

Becky Butler, a senior majoring in international studies talks with INTO student Lydia Cheung who studies natural resource management. The two shared perspectives on the assigned topic for the day, which was homelessness. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)
Becky Butler, a senior majoring in international studies talks with INTO student Lydia Cheung who studies natural resource management. The two shared perspectives on the assigned topic for the day, which was homelessness. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)

When students venture into the INTO Colorado State University building, a variety of languages are heard, but English is not often one of them. In the classroom, international students are learning conversational and academic English.

September 4 marked the first week of INTO CSU’s Conversation Partners Program for around 300 INTO international students, according to Beth Hasbrouck, coordinator of the program.

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The weekly program links volunteers to international students to assist in conversational English.

“It’s a way to give our students the opportunity to speak and interact in an informal way, without a grade attached,” Hasbrouck said.

The Conversation Partners Program is mandatory, but not graded, for INTO CSU students taking certain English classes.

Heather Moffie, an INTO CSU English instructor emphasized how important the program to increase confidence among international students.

“It makes the students more confident on their English speaking and helps them to feel safe,” Moffie said.

According to Moffie, the program is beneficial to international students and volunteers.

“It is definitely the (international) students’ favorite part of the program,” Moffie said.

Topics for conversation vary week to week — from light topics such as introductions and English songs to topics that require more vocabulary and processing, such as homelessness.

Kol Yu, an academic English INTO student, reflected on Thursday’s session, where he learned the meaning of an English idiom.

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“I learned, ‘to put yourself into someone else’s shoes,’ means put myself into that situation,” Yu said.

CSU students and Fort Collins community members can volunteer once every week for four to seven weeks.

“The only prerequisite to be a volunteer is (to be) willing to learn and interact with our students,” Hasbrouck said.

Becky Butler, an international studies senior, has volunteered for the program for two semesters.

“I am an international studies major, so interacting with people from different cultures is very helpful to me,” Butler said.

Butler also explained how her interactions with international students does not stop in the classroom.

“Some friends [from the program] and I planned to see a football game last year it was actually my first football game as well,” Butler said. “We met here, but it doesn’t stay here.”

According to Hasbrouck, the program helps to support CSU’s mission of inviting more international students to the university and making connections.

“It helps them to negotiate life in the United States from a different perspective,” Hasbrouck said.

Collegian Reporter Megan Fischer can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @MegFischer04.

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